When Renan Barao faced Urijah Faber for the interim bantamweight title in UFC 149, the fight was mostly a one-sided domination by the current champion. It appeared the need for a rematch would seem highly unnecessary. However, following an injury to original opponent Dominick Cruz and an impressive four-fight winning streak by Faber since last facing Barao, fans will see whether the "California Kid" has improved his game enough to bring something new to the table in the rematch.
In addition, featherweight champion and one of the sport's best, Jose Aldo, will be taking on surging contender Ricardo Lamas. We'll break down the lines to tell you whether there's any chance we could see a shake-up in title holders, as well as to find value in the other lines at UFC 169.
In their first meeting, Faber looked outclassed in every aspect of the fight. But with the opportunity to step in for the injured Cruz, Faber will again get five rounds at the elusive Barao. And with four recent consecutive wins against top opponents, with three ending by submission, Faber arguably has earned this second title shot, despite the fact that he took the fight on short notice. Despite Faber's impressive win streak, the numbers still bear out the fact that the first event was no fluke, and that Barao is simply a much better fighter than Faber.
Not only is Barao a better fighter than Faber, but he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA. Having never lost in his eight fights since joining the WEC and UFC organizations, Barao hasn't shown many weaknesses in his dominant run. Maintaining 3.66 strikes landed per minute (SLPM), Barao is consistently able to outpace opponents and utilize his incredible movement and athleticism to pick them apart striking.
Against Faber, who holds an inferior 2.71 SLPM, Barao should again be able to put on the striking clinic that he demonstrated in the first fight, out-landing Faber 85-60 in significant strikes. On the other hand, Faber hasn't needed to out-strike opponents in his past few fights; he's had huge success in the grappling game, averaging 1.55 takedowns and 1.11 submissions per 15 minutes.
In context of this, the real statistic of the fight is Barao's takedown defense, which is an extremely high 95 percent, and the fact that Faber wasn't able to take down Barao once in six attempts the first time around. With Faber likely unable to get Barao to the ground, he'll again find himself at a disadvantage trading for five rounds. And though Faber has looked as good lately, he will be taking this fight on short notice, having fought just six weeks ago, and is an aging fighter (34). Having to take on the 26-year-old Barao in one's prime let alone at an advanced age (for MMA), the circumstances seem like an extremely tall order for Faber. He didn't show any indication of being able to challenge Barao in the first fight. Thus, with all of these factors in play, consider Barao a terrific bet to duplicate his initial performance against Faber at just minus-280.
Insider value pick: Barao